1. In this study, religious attendance was not associated with later or concurrent mental health.
2. Higher levels of depression and anxiety were associated with a later increase in religious attendance.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Currently, the literature suggests that religiosity has been associated with better mental health outcomes. However, there are no investigations of the potential bi-directional relationship between religious involvement and mental health. As a result, the objective of the present cohort study was to investigate the bi-directional associations between religious attendance and mental health.
The present retrospective cohort included 2125 participants (51% male) from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development (1946 British birth cohort study). These participants took part in the most recent data collection at age 68-69. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were measured at different time points using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28). Similarly, frequency of religious attendance was assessed at different time points using a postal questionnaire. An auto-regressive cross-lagged model was used to assess longitudinal associations between mental health and religious attendance over time using three-repeated measures for each of these variables.
Results demonstrated that religious attendance was not associated with later or concurrent mental health. Furthermore, higher levels of depression and anxiety were associated with a later increase in religious attendance. An important limitation of the study was that religious attendance and mental health were not always collected at the same time which may have influenced the cross-lagged model’s assumption of synchronicity. Nonetheless, this study was significant as it was the first to describe a lack of bi-directionality between religiosity and mental health in the United Kingdom.
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